VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 9, 2012) - The justice-system study launched yesterday by the BC Government stands to delay a solution in an area already overdue for immediate attention. Meanwhile, citizens in need of assistance - who cannot qualify for legal aid - continue to act for themselves, thereby slowing down the entire system.

"Legal aid is a severely troubled area within our justice system," said Marc Kazimirski, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC. "The shortage of funding and a lack of service provision have led to inefficiencies. Meanwhile, self-represented citizens continue to slow the courts down. We should be helping these people, not leaving them to fend for themselves."

Legal aid requires immediate action, not further study. There is nothing left to investigate. The report from the province-wide Public Commission on Legal Aid is nearly a year old (circulated in March 2011). Commissioner Leonard Doust QC penned the thoughtful and detailed document as a result of consultations held around the province in 2010. Among the core conclusions: Legal aid should be an essential service. He asserted what is now a widely held view: BC is seriously behind other jurisdictions with regard to legal aid. He sounded the warning: "We can no longer avoid the fact that we are failing the most disadvantaged members of our community."

The newly launched review aside, a government announcement earlier in the week was positive. "The announcement of nine more judges being appointed to provincial court was an encouraging step forward for justice," Kazimirski explained. "We will remain hopeful that the impending budget announcement will address the current funding shortage of legal aid and other areas in crisis."

At present, lawyers from all regions of the province are involved in an escalating series of service withdrawals aimed at drawing attention to the need for increased funding for legal aid. The current withdrawal period runs until February 14. Approximately two-thirds of BC's provincial courthouses are impacted by a full withdrawal of duty counsel (adult criminal cases), while other courthouses are operating with limited availability. The third phase of withdrawals will run from March 1 - 21. The scheduled final phase will be a withdrawal of services for the entire month of April.

Many people do not receive legal assistance, regardless of how badly they need help. Fewer services are covered today than were covered 10 years ago, when significant cuts took hold. Many citizens are forced to fend for themselves, simply because they cannot afford a lawyer. The lack of representation causes a serious slow-down effect on the administration of justice, causing matters to take longer.

The government-ordered review seeks to speed up justice. Immediate improvements to legal aid would do just that.

Contact Information:

Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
Bentley Doyle
604-682-5343 / 1-888-558-5222